The Afghan government has recently announced that it will arm and pay salaries to local people to defend their villages against Taliban attacks. Though the Afghan government has said that these new forces will be working under the police, there still are many questions regarding the status of these forces which are yet to be answered.
Taliban threat rising in Afghanistan
The Afghan government claims to have come up with a new idea for fighting the insurgency in Afghanistan: Selected local people will be armed in those areas where the Taliban insurgency is strongest.
The spokesman of the Afghan interior ministry Zmarai Bashari says that there is no reason for Afghans to be concerned about the new forces:
“We have named it the people's defence force. It is not a militia. It is also not about illegally arming local people."
Speculations over the plan
Many Afghans are concerned and sceptical about these newly armed men, who the government says will be selected by the local elders. An Afghan from the troubled province of Kandahar fears that these new forces will only intensify the conflict:
“They are arming those who were disarmed through the disarmament process of Disarmament Demobilisation and Reintegration or DDR. I don’t think that they will be able to bring peace. I rather believe that they will increase instability.”
The Americans armed local Iraqis who then helped US forces to stem the insurgency in Iraq. Now, this model is being tried elsewhere. But Prof. Abdul Qayum Momand, a senior analyst of the region, says that the ideas which worked in Iraq can’t be implemented for Afghanistan:
“The situation in Afghanistan is rather different than in Iraq because the local situation and local condition differs. And the resistance which is taking place in Afghanistan is quite different from the resistance that is taking place in Iraq.”
Local armed forces, which are formed by a Council of Elders or ‘Jirgas’ to implement the decisions of the Council have a long tradition in Pashtun tribal areas. These local forces called ‘Lashkars’ in the tribal areas of Pakistan and ‘Arbaki’ in Afghanistan are usually temporary says Prof. Momand. “The Lashkar is a temporary thing. It is just for one purpose. If that purpose finishes, the Lashkar disappears."
The Afghan government denies that the new forces are a kind of ‘Lashkar’ or ‘Arbaki’ as neighbouring Pakistan has had no success with such forces. In some areas of the Bajaur Agency local Lashkars flushed the militants out of the hill-areas of the Pakistan-Afghan border but their success did not last for long. The Lashkar strategy failed badly in North and South Waziristan, Orakzai Agency and the Swat valley. According to a local television reporter Ashraf Irfan, the Lashkar policy was counterproductive:
“This policy remained fruitless because the fear factor is so much engrossed, the fear is so much visible that the local people feel it hard to stand up against the militants - keeping in view the suicide attacks against the Lashkars in which more than 300 people have been killed!”
The new strategy appears to confirm that the security situation on the ground in Afghanistan is worsening further. Now all eyes are on Washington to see what the new U.S. strategy will be.